Senior Citizens Welfare Act – A Social Ethical Responsibility

November 1, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

Sohail Karman

 

By

Zeeshan A. Shah

Pakistan is a country with over 53 million people. It is also blessed with over 12.5 million senior citizens who are the pride of the country and who have contributed to various endeavors over the years. Yet only about 2% of the population received old age benefits under the government pension policy.

Unlike elsewhere, where senior citizens are given the privileges as deserved, we still have to formulate a much more respectful and robust process flow to look into this serious ethical and social concern. Old people in our culture are given respect but are not allotted privileges and benefits as much as they should. Unfortunately over 98% of the pensioners have lived a life of substantial unease and discontent, at a time where all they need is comfort and care.

In Pakistan, the average life expectancy is 60 to 77 years with only 2% over the age of 65 receiving pensions from the government. According to the Global Age Watch Index, the ranking for Pakistan is very low at 92. The country ranks low on health domain (78), due to low life expectancy at 60 (17) and healthy life expectancy at 60 which is 13.8 years more as compared to regional averages of 19.3 and 14.8. it also ranks low in the enabling environment domain (81) due to lesser satisfaction of older people with social connectedness at 60%, civic freedom at 46%, public transport at 55%, compared to regional averages of 69%, 67% and 65% respectively. On the upside the only good indicator for Pakistan is having the lowest age poverty rate which is 1.8%. On the income security domain, Pakistan ranks second lowest (95) and has the lowest pension coverage in the region at a dismal 2.3%.

In recent years, there have been some positive developments on the provincial levels as far as the senior citizen rights are concerned. The KPK province in Pakistan was the first to take measure and passed the Senior Citizens Welfare Act 2014 to encourage support to aged communities by the government. This was followed by others. Next was another good initiative that was launched by the Sindh Provincial government by introducing a pension facility through “Azadi Cards “for its senior residents. This was to help the governments effectively register senior citizens and ensure the timely release and dispensation of pension funds more effectively. This also helps update databases for future reference and records.

 

 

A senior citizen council will be legislated that will work towards the formulation of policies for the wellbeing of senior citizens accordingly to the Senior Citizens Act. This council will include members of the provincial assembly, local government, members of NGOs, human rights associations, social welfare departments, retired government officers and health departments. For example, according to clause 2.5 (J) of the Welfare Act, free funeral and burial services will be ensured to senior citizens upon death through local council approval.

The Senior Citizens Welfare Bill was passed in 2014 by the standing committee of social welfare. The final draft was presented in April 2016 and was assented to an ACT on June 22nd 2016, marking the golden era in the scheme of things for senior citizens – a major breakthrough. According to the provisions of this act, the government shall prescribe a comprehensive action plan for the protection of life and property of senior citizens and the social welfare department will be responsible to implement the law. How far this is really being done in spirit is yet to be ascertained as all over the country the timely facilities promised to the majority of citizens have not been delivered upon the exact same level.

For example, if a senior citizen shows his/her card or identification, are they given discounts on purchase of daily food items or on the purchase of pure drinking water? Are they given a free upgrade on flights? Are they given discounts on medicines? These things are highly ignored in most places where the need of these services is immensely severe. The poor are always more vulnerable. And that is where the governments are trying to make an effort but are not completely there. By drafting laws, the real issues are not resolved until the state works out a comprehensive strategy to help eradicate poverty, which usually affects children and senior citizens the most.

In the current information age, research is evident on the benefits of having senior citizens in good health. In our culture where nuclear families thrive, senior citizens are a source of great support and happiness for younger adults and the family is more positive and more united, the children are loved and cared by their grandparents, something that is not there in many other societies leading to broken homes and family alienation by the absence of senior citizens. It is far more enriching to foster healthy senior citizens and ensure good provisions for them to sustain the overall root of the family tree. It gives a nation the courage to be a proud, citizen-conscious and ethically responsible country.

The Senior Citizens Act is a step forward and must be made more effective by ensuring more action policies that benefit our elders and leave a mark and message of hope and dignity for the generations to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zeeshan A. Shah

The writer is a Director at CNNA Pakistan – a leading advocacy institute and is an expert on International Relations and Education Policy.

With over 150 publications in major local and global social media & newspapers, he has been instrumental in producing over 5000 radio broadcasts aired globally.

A thought leader, environmental journalist, media broadcaster and a change maker with an acute focus on development affairs & education for Pakistan.

2 Comments

  1. P C K PREM November 01, at 07:28

    A thought provoking piece of writing ...of immense contemporary significance when apathy and intolerance stifles growth of true human beings. Perhaps, everyone needs to look into the societal mind set and its areas of noble and generous activities. Very nice Mr Shah. Thanks.

    Reply

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